Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Better Together

As a Scot, I closely followed the recent referendum on Scottish independence and was pleased to see that a majority of my native country wanted to stay in the United Kingdom.

For me, it’s a situation that is somewhat analogous to many others, to Texas and the United States, or the relationships within multi-national organisations – like our own AFP: states and provinces that possess their own unique strengths and culture, but at the same time share similar traditions and connections with another country.

Could Scotland go independent? Yes. Would we better off? No, I don’t think so, and probably much worse off. We do share many ideas and traditions, to say nothing of history, with the rest of the United Kingdom, and it’s those similarities that are more important than our differences. The slogan for the referendum rang true: We are better together.

How does this all relate to nonprofits? For the last few years, the nonprofit sector has been united against proposals to reduce the value of the charitable deduction. Through the Charitable Giving Coalition—which AFP helped found—the sector has stood together in fighting against the White House and members of Congress that see charities as just another source of revenue.

That’s something that needs to continue even as we begin to push forward on other issues, such as new tax incentives for giving. We may have different priorities in terms of incentives or what other nonprofit matters Congress should address next. But we will be far more effective if we remain united and continue to work together. The adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is an accurate one.

It would be easy for the sector to drift apart—sometimes it seems that we only truly come together when a crisis emerges. But this time, we need to have the foresight to stay united and work as a coalition, even if we aren’t always addressing the particular issues our organizations favor.

We share far more similarities than differences, and we ARE much better together.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Does the Code Mean to You?

50 years ago, AFP created its first code of ethics.

It had four provisions related to: conducting yourself by generally accepted standards of truth, accuracy, fair dealing and good taste;” protecting privacy of anonymous donors; prohibiting commissions and percentage-based compensation; and abiding by all appropriate laws and regulations.

Our current code has 25 standards covering everything from presentation of information and use of funds to conflict of interest and privacy. AFP has become the leader in fundraising ethics, and our code remains one of the few in the world that’s enforceable.

But it’s not the number of standards that’s important—or its enforcement policy—but what the code means to each of us that’s truly critical.

Ethics isn’t just a list of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not a scorecard of ethical behavior. It’s guidance. It can be a source of inspiration. It’s a statement of our values and what we want society to look like. It can mean many different things to each of us at different points in our professional careers.

As we celebrate 50 years of the AFP Code of Ethics, we celebrate what the code has meant—and will continue to mean—to each of us. Each standard has helped to shape and define the profession and our body of work.

And I’d like to hear from you about what the code has meant in your work. Did it serve as guidance in a situation involving your board. Did it inspire a donor to give? Did you work out a situation with a donor using the standards? Or has it been something even more personal to you along your career path?

Let us know as we celebrate the 50th anniversary. Comment below or send your story to paffairs@afpnet.org.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why

When we talk about philanthropy, it’s often the “what” of giving and volunteering that we focus on: what we gave, what we did and what the impact was.

But often it’s the “why” of philanthropy that’s most inspiring. Why do we get involved? Is it because of one person—perhaps a family member or friend? Someone in the news who inspires you? Or was it a situation where you suddenly realized that you had to get involved? Why are we compelled to help others?

National Philanthropy Day

The “why” of philanthropy is why AFP put together its National Philanthropy Day® contest this year: Who is Your Philanthropic Idol? We wanted to know who—or what—inspires you to be a volunteer, donor, advocate or helper.

It’s simple to get involved: just post a short, one-minute video to our NPDLove.com website by Oct. 7 explaining who your philanthropic idol and why he, she or it inspires you. Starting Oct. 10, we’ll have public voting, and we’ll announce the top five most popular videos (which each earn the submitter $500 toward their favorite charity) on Nov. 15, National Philanthropy Day®.

2014 NPD Award Finalists
Also on the NPDLove.com website, you can learn about AFP’s own 16 Philanthropic Idols—the finalists for our international awards program—and why they give. From this list of 16, we’ll be honoring at our National Philanthropy Day® Honors event on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.

So make your video today and tell us the “why” of your philanthropy. Everyone has their own story for giving and volunteering. Share your story of why you are inspired to change the world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The #IceBucketChallenge

Chances are, you’ve heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. At this point, how could you not?

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting the video to social media and then nominating others to do the same. If you refuse to take the challenge, then you’re asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of your choice.

As of this writing, the ALS Association has received over $15 million in donations—compared to $1.7 million during the same time last year—and more than 300,000 new donors! There are more than a million ice bucket videos now on Facebook.

Obviously, the campaign is a success, but at the same time let’s not make more of this than it is. We’re not seeing a fundamental change in the nature of fundraising—it’s a clever use of social media. The challenge is like sponsoring a friend—we do it because of the connection, not necessarily the cause.

Hopefully the ALS Association will make some new long-term supporters through the challenge. But that’s going to require a lot of donor cultivation on its part—and that’s the sort of work that all of us are doing. There’s also been some discussion around whether the challenge is draining money away from other causes. All campaigns and solicitations require people to make choices, and this is no different. I personally compartmentalize this sort of approach and don’t regard it as part of my overall philanthropic budget—and I think a lot of people do the same. In the end, we’re talking $15 million compared to the overall $300 billion in charitable giving annually.

The #IceBucketChallenge isn’t changing the nature of our work, but it does demonstrate what we can do if we strike the right tone while taking a reasonable risk with our outreach.

(Editor’s Note: The total is now up to $32 million and counting!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some Thoughts on Don Rizzo: Colleague, Friend and Fundraiser

“What makes a great fundraiser?”

If you were faced with this question you would possibly think of someone who raises a lot of money, runs groundbreaking campaigns, develops innovative ideas and has great rapport with donors and supporters.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of those but I think there are other qualities we often forget or tend to give short shrift. Modesty, for instance. For after all, as fundraisers, we are not the focal point—it is our donors and the beneficiaries that together, we serve. And since fundraising is a team effort, what of loyalty to the team and letting others shine? What about giving back and being generous in spirit and camaraderie?

I mention this because Don Rizzo, CFRE, a long-time fundraiser and member, and former chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, died this week. Don was a fabulous fundraiser, running huge campaigns for the University of Louisville, University of Hartford, Butler University and Loyola University, among others. So much so that he was named AFP’s 2010 Outstanding Fundraising Professional.

But when I heard of his death this weekend, I immediately thought of those qualities, not his fundraising exploits. Don was a quiet leader, quick to give credit and always ready to highlight the work of others. For him, it was all about getting the job done by bringing together the best possible expertise and resources, regardless of who got the accolades, and creating a culture of philanthropy and collegiality.

Maybe those qualities—humility, loyalty, compassion and camaraderie—aren’t always top of the list in today’s society, but I know they make for a very fine and effective fundraiser. They’re qualities we should all seek to emulate, both in our professional and personal lives.

Thank you, Don, for your service to AFP, the organizations where you worked, and the fundraising profession. We will continue to follow in your footsteps and seek to live up to the high standards and qualities you set for yourself and your work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Increase in Giving, But Fair Warning Needed

Like many of you, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Giving USA numbers for 2013, with overall giving increasing by three percent, adjusted for inflation.

While previous versions of the study showed a steady uptick in giving over the past few years—as had other surveys, including the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2013 Year-End Fundraising Survey—few expected such a strong increase for the past year.

But look a bit deeper, and there are some troubling signs. As the Giving Institute (the publisher of Giving USA) noted, total giving was “given a lift by several very large gifts made by individuals, couples and estates in 2013.”

This trend mirrors what we’re seeing with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project—charities raising more money, but from fewer donors. And it explains a lot of what I’m hearing about from AFP members— who are reporting different and mixed experiences related to giving and economic rebounds.

There are two key reasons for this. One, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about giving after the Great Recession, and lower and middle-income donors probably aren’t comfortable enough yet financially to resume their traditional levels of giving. I think we’ll see those giving levels rise in the coming years.

But two, and more importantly, what we’re seeing is the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy. If that trend continues—and there’s no evidence so far to indicate it won’t—it could have a tremendous impact on philanthropy and fundraising.

I’d be interested in hearing your organization’s giving experiences so far in 2014 and what you think about the growing concentration of wealth.

And don’t forget, not only does AFP have a number of articles and resources related to Giving USA, but  AFP members get a 30 discount on ordering Giving USA resources as well.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Leadership Through Change

I need your help in changing AFP.

And it’s going to take you about twenty minutes.

That’s how long it will take you to help determine the direction of our association when you nominate someone (even yourself) to one of our boards—either our association board, or the board of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy.

Change in our world is constant. We’re going to evolve—as individuals, as an association and as a profession. It’s inevitable.

But it’s not enough just to accept change. Success in our world means embracing and harnessing it. And our leadership has to reflect those ideas.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’re naturally resistant to change. And not only that, we are often drawn to like-minded people who think the same way we do. But without actively seeking out change, we risk getting tunnel vision and simply doing what we’ve always done because it’s worked in the past.

That’s not my vision of AFP, and it’s not an effective way to function as a profession. We all have to be willing to make hard, conscious choices about accepting and embracing new perspectives and ideas.

One of those choices is in the selection of our leaders.

If you haven’t thought about joining one of our boards, I urge you to consider it. Or if there’s someone you admire and respect—someone who hasn’t taken a leadership role before—I hope you’ll nominate them.

The deadline for submitting nominations to either board is June 27—though nominations for chair-elect are due June 20.

And if you don’t feel like you’re ready for the board, consider volunteering on the chapter level. In addition, AFP International has over 50 different committees and task forces on which you can serve (you can contact Rebecca Knight at rknight@afpnet.org for more information).

We need to change—all organizations do, continuously. And you’re the key. Take a little time and help us set the course for AFP and the fundraising profession.